After Life (Netflix) is back for a third season. I’m not sure why. At the end of Season 2, Tony seemed to get that he couldn’t keep grieving his dead wife, Lisa forever. In the final scene, he opened his front door to Emma, literally and metaphorically allowing her into his home and his life. Like so much else in After Life, it was an elegant and grown-up ending, allowing us to come to our own conclusion. The show was over, Tony was moving on with his life.
And here we are at a new season and Tony is still in full-on grieving mode. We know this because he keeps looking at videos of his time with Lisa, during his two or three bottles of wine a night. It’s even harder for us to watch these videos than it is for him, because they would be the Most Annoying TV Couple of All Time — if it wasn't for Ned and Maude Flanders from The Simpsons.
Meanwhile, back in After Life, Emma, who is both alive and very un-annoying, is still in love with Tony. The charming, funny woman he met when his Dad was in a nursing home, is still hanging around waiting for him to get over his loss. We all are — and I can’t see us doing it much longer.
It’s a testament to how good After Life has been up to now, that we still even care. Tony and Emma and their gang of friends and family in the fictional village of Tambury have had a hold on the audience since the first episode of season 1. Say what you will about Ricky Gervais, but he knows how to make us care about miserable, grumpy people.
That’s Tony on a good day. Not that he has many of those, anymore. It’s as if Gervais worried that Tony might have gone a bit soft in season 2, so here he's non-stop brutal, goading his brother-in-law to the point of having a heart attack.
Another character, Brian Gittins (played by David Earl) appears to have doubled his dose of bitterness and sexual frustration since last season. It feels like After Life is just trolling us now, to see if it can make us hate it.
Not yet. After Life can still be very funny, like when Tony is reading out a piece of self-published erotic fiction to the rest of the office.
And Gervais still knows how to put together shockingly poignant scenes, like when Tony's colleague Kath hears some home truths from an astrologer, or a minor character tells Tony to cop on and get on with his life, it’s what Lisa would have wanted.
That’s the voice of the audience. After Life is still one of the best bitter-sweet comedies out there. The absurdly pretty village of Tambury, full of miserable people, will stand the test of time. I just wish Ricky Gervais had stopped at season 2, and set about showing us that there is life after After Life.